In State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corporation et al.,2015-Ohio-485 (decided February 17, 2015), the Supreme Court of Ohio issued a 4-3 decision affirming the Ninth District Court of Appeal’s ruling that municipal ordinances cannot discriminate, impede, or obstruct activities and operations under R.C. 1509.02.
In Beck, the City of Munroe Falls sought an injunction prohibiting Beck Energy from drilling a well based on local zoning and drilling ordinances. The trial court granted the injunction, but was reversed by the Ninth District Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the appellate court’s decision holding that the municipal ordinances regulating zoning and oil and gas drilling were not a valid exercise of its home-rule power because they constitute an exercise of police power in conflict with R.C. 1509.02. In its analysis, the Court noted that “R.C. 1509.02 not only gives [the Ohio Department of Natural Resources] sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations within Ohio; it expressly reserves for the state, to the exclusion of local governments, the right to regulate all aspects; of the location, drilling, and operation of oil and gas wells, including permitting relating to those activities.”
The Court expressly limited its holding to the five municipal ordinances at issue, noting that “we make no judgment as to whether other ordinances could coexist with the General Assembly’s comprehensive regulatory scheme.”
Justice O’Donnell concurred in judgment only to emphasize the limited scope of the Court’s decision, which is limited to the specific ordinances at issue, stating “whether a municipality has authority to enact zoning ordinances that affect oil and gas wells within its territory is a question yet to be decided.”
Justices Lanzinger, Pfeifer, and O’Neill dissented, with Lanzinger noting that R.C. 1509 does not expressly prohibit the enforcement of local zoning ordinances, which may differ from and co-exist with statewide regulations governing drilling.